Mayor Stephen Mandel has vowed Edmonton will be Canada’s home to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday for three months come 2017 — only if Alberta’s capital is successful in hosting the $2.3-billion World Expo.

“It’s going to be a big party, not just for 90 days, but through the whole year throughout our province,” said Mandel while unveiling the bid’s official plans to the media yesterday.

Those plans will include hosting the world’s fair at two locations within Edmonton with the main site located at the University of Alberta’s south campus. The bid committee is also eying a location in west Rossdale to complement the Expo.

And organizers say both locations will be linked with extensions of the city’s LRT and the event will take advantage of river taxis that will travel back and forth on the North Saskatchewan River between an area near Fox Drive and Rossdale.

Edmonton’s bid committee chair, Tony Franceschini, says the event will attract 5.3 million visits, along with injecting a boost to the city’s economy that will include 37,000 person years of employment and $818 million in government tax revenue.

But it won’t come cheap and Franceschini says all three levels of government must be on board with commitments to invest between now and next spring when Ottawa will put forward the bid to the Bureau of International Exhibitions for their consideration .

Meanwhile, city council must also decide next week whether or not it will approve $500,000 from its 2010 budget to move on to the bid’s next step as council contends with a proposed 6.5 per cent tax hike.

But Mandel says moving on with the bid is a “tremendous benefit” for Edmonton’s economy, even at a time when the council is considering shaving $50 million with cuts to snow removal and recreation facilities.

“(The cuts are) a short-term issue and we need to be responsible right now,” said Mandel.

“Expo is not an expense today. It’s an expense down the road.”

Scott Hennig, an Alberta director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says the investment is too much money for an event that “people have lost interest in.”

“This is a whole pile of money when you have the city hiking taxes at 20 times the inflation rate right now,” said Hennig.

The city’s budget is expected to be approved Dec. 8.

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